Feedback activation of STAT3 limits the response to PI3K/AKT/mTOR inhibitors in PTEN-deficient cancer cells

Jian Wang, Xiaoye Lv, Xiutian Guo, Yanbo Dong, Peipei Peng, Fang Huang, Peng Wang, Haoqian Zhang, Jianguang Zhou, Youliang Wang, Bo Wei, Zeng Fu Shang, Shanhu Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway is constitutively active in PTEN-deficient cancer cells, and its targeted inhibition has significant anti-tumor effects. However, the efficacy of targeted therapies is often limited due to drug resistance. The relevant signaling pathways in PTEN-deficient cancer cells treated with the PI3K/mTOR inhibitor BEZ235 were screened using a phosphokinase array, and further validated following treatment with multiple PI3K/AKT/mTOR inhibitors or AKT knockdown. The correlation between PTEN expression levels and STAT3 kinase phosphorylation in the tissue microarrays of gastric cancer patients was analyzed by immunohistochemistry. Cell proliferation and clonogenic assays were performed on the suitably treated PTEN-deficient cancer cells. Cytokine arrays, small molecule inhibition and knockdown assays were performed to identify related factors. PTEN-deficient tumor xenografts were established in nude mice that were treated with PI3K/AKT/mTOR and/or STAT3 inhibitors. PTEN deficiency was positively correlated with low STAT3 activity. PI3K/mTOR inhibitors increased the expression and secretion of macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) and activated the JAK1/STAT3 signaling pathway. Both cancer cells and in vivo tumor xenografts showed that the combined inhibition of PI3K/AKT/mTOR and STAT3 activity enhanced the inhibitory effect of BEZ235 on the proliferation of PTEN-deficient cancer cells. Our findings provide a scientific basis for a novel treatment strategy in cancer patients with PTEN deficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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